The Washington Post

Dana Milbank on what he learned from Karl Rove's book

Mar 08, 2010

Dana Milbank discusses his column about Karl Rove's new memoir, "Courage and Consequence," and takes your questions about the latest political news.

In these lean times, I am attempting to do a public service by saving you the $30 price of Karl Rove's book.  If I do not know the answer to your question I will do what the author did: I will wing it.

Are there any pictures in it?

Not pictures in the My Pet Goat sense of illustrations.  There are photographs in the middle, of young Rove and old Rove with 43.  This reduces the overall reading load by about 20 pages. 

Reading is overrated.

The question is not whether you are reading. The question we must ask is, "Is our children reading?"

Is it the sort of book that goes on the bookshelf or the kind that gets donated to the thrift store?

Depends on the size of your shelf.  It is about 4 inches thick, so pretty good if you're going for a wall-to-wall library effect.

Just for my--and many others'--edification, could you please detail any one significant fact that GW Bush knew, pre-war, that he then contradicted or denied as fact to the public and used as a justification for war?

Please don't say WMDs, because the intelligence arms of several countries--as well as many democrats and republicans (Kerry, Clinton, etc)--were equally convinced about Saddam's weapons programs, as we all recall. If Bush was lying about WMDs, then so were all these entities, Many confuse "lies" with mistakes of fact. I know of nothing Bush said regarding his reasons for war that he KNEW to be false. Do you?

Well, I did a piece on this in October, 2002. It ran on a1 and was titled, "For Bush, the Facts are Malleable."  My favorite was his claim that Iraq had drones capable of attacking the United States.  Ari Fleischer said they could be put on boats and then launched from the boats (by the Iraqi navy, I guess) to attack us once they were within range.   I had no access to intelligence back then (come to think of it, I have never had access to any sort of intelligence, as readers can attest), but it was pretty obvious that was nonsense even then.

So, Rove's big mistake that he cops to was not attacking the President's critics aggressively enough... I got that right?

Yep.  In retrospect, a  glaring mistake.  The problem is those guys were just too doggone nice.

On the interview, ML asked Rove if he was the source of the 2000 South Carolina push poll whisper campaign, that McCain had a "black baby."

Rove denied this, and actually implied that it could have been Bush, and blamed McCain for not using it as a teaching moment for his adoption of a girl from Bangladesh!

Back in the fall of 2001, I googled this push poll, and got an AP wire report that Rove was actually bragging about derailing McCain's campaign with the push poll. Rove has been pulling dirty tricks since Nixon's time. What are your recollections/research turned up about who sank McCain, and is Rove really trying to implicate GWB?

While I'm no GWB fan, I don't think he's as evil or mean spirited as what I've read about Rove.

Yes, that's the same way he recounts it in the book.   Rove does have a legitimate beef in that everybody always blames him first whenever there's something resembling a dirty trick.   He says he was responsible for some push polling, but he says the questions were routine (ie, nothing about the illegitimate child).  I don't think anybody has ever proved the Bush campaign to be behind the worst of the allegations in South Carolina.  The problem was they weren't distancing themselves from the filth.

Have you had a chance to speak with the Dean since he criticized your piece? I'm interested to know how internal discussions go -- most op-ed criticisms are passive aggressive at best. To an outsider, I was really surprised to see an explicit, by-name criticism by David Broder, of all people. What was your take?

Talk about dirty tricks!  That Broder fellow is brutal.

At least he called me his "friend" the way they do in the Senate before eviscerating each other.

I have not bumped into my attacker yet, but I am showing photos of him to my puppy in hopes that she will grow into a ferocious attack dog. 


Does Rove discuss why he was called back to the grand jury four or five times during the CIA scandal inquiry? Or does he use his book to get his story straight?

Yes, at great length.  If you still don't want to part with that $30, I'll summarize:

-- Matt Cooper lied.

-- Chris Matthews lied.

-- Bob Novak misled him.

-- Patrick Fitzgerald had a quixotic obsession.

-- Rove committed no crime and merely had a memory lapse.



Why is New York generating so many psycho politicians?

Yes, very proud of my native land these days:  Rangel, Paterson, Massa.  I believe it is the curse of Spitzer.  Either that or they were jealous of Jersey getting all the attention. 

I note that, like Sarah Palin, Rove's book signing tour is hitting Republican communities and avoiding large cities where he would sell more books but he would possibly be exposed to more (shudder) "non-Republicans."

How do you read his book tour schedule?

Well, I think Sarah Palin arranged her schedule so that she could pop over to Canada regularly for her medical care.  Rove uses American medical care so has more flexibility.

Once Rove finishes his book tour, what's next for him? A long period of unemployment?

Worse. He's sunk so low that now he's  a . . . columnist!

Dana: Just wondering if you think Karl Rove would sign on to any Republican's campaign for 2012--or whether he would be asked to. It is striking to me how George W. Bush is never, ever invoked by any Republican outside of Richard Cheney. It's as if the party had decided that the appropriate response to his 8 years in office is, "Nothing to see here. Move along." Thanks

Not so! Michelle Bachmann was celebrating Bush at CPAC.   Would be very unusual for Rove to return to presidential politics in anything other than an informal advisor capacity. 

Dana, I used to really like your columns. You skewered the powerful and (self-)important and did so without regard to their political leanings. But with your new column, you've committed the ultimate sin: you're not funny any more. I think this is because you're now much more partisan than ever before. There are more than enough Froomkin wannabes on your paper; please just stick with the bipartisan skewering.

How sad. I have always wanted to be Froomkin, or at least have his hair.

Actually I think you may be conflating two things: the weekday "Sketch" columns and the Sunday op-ed columns. The latter tend to be less mirthful and more edgy.  But not partisan:  Harry Reid, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs will attest.


He won.

The Love Story theory of politics.

There is nothing better than a circular political firing squad. Which Republicans hate Rove the most? Which Republicans does Rove hate the most? Any nude shower fights a la Emanuel and Massa?

Rove definitely hates Tom Davis, and it appears to be mutual.   But he's not about settling scores with Republicans in the book.  Even mentions he took off his Teddy Roosevelt cufflinks once and gave them to a grateful John McCain.  Of course, thanks to Glenn Beck, we now know TR was a communist, so obviously KR didn't want those cufflinks anyway.

I have to admit these Democratic politicians are making me sick lately with their scandals, but isn't it interesting - most of them fess up and claim responsibility. The Republicans like to play the victim - Rove, Palin, Delay, that foot tapping Senator whose name I've forgotten. What say you?

Nope. Scandal is one area that is perfectly bipartisan.  The decision to fess up seems to have nothing to do with party and everything to do with crisis management advice.

As much as it pains me, I have to give Rove his props for getting someone as simple-minded as W elected president even given the grave damage he did to the country. Putting that aside, did Rove finally tell the world who Jeff Gannon visited all those times in the White House and what did they discuss? I think the answer to that question will tell us most of what we need to know about the Bush years.

I have no answer to this question but am delighted to have Jeff Gannon make a cameo in this chat.

Has James Cameron optioned the book for his next epic 3-D fantasy movie?

It's going to be called Turd Blossom.  All the characters are microorganisms living in a cow pie.

Will someone read the book to W?

I would be honored.

No. That was Gore who invented the author of "Love Story."


I stand corrected. 


Did you catch last Tuesday's new epi of "The Good Wife," in which Alan Cumming portrays Chris Noth's new foul-mouthed campaign genius Eli Gold, whose background includes being a trained concert pianist (rather than ballet dancer!)?

I'm hoping this Rahm Emanuel doppelganger becomes a regular -- or at least recurring -- character on the series.

Have not seen but am passing this on as another public service.  I really think this is my year to win the Pulitzer for Public Service.

I enjoy your exposures of hypocricy and hubris among our politicians. Does this make it hard for you to get politicians to sit down for interviews with you? Or do they start sweating when you show up at one of their hearings or news conferences?

I am trying to think of the last time I actually sat down for an interview with a politician. Usually it's on the hoof as I chase somebody with questions when they leave the chamber after voting.  I did wind up sitting next to Senator Boxer on a flight to California a couple of years ago, so I guess that would be my last "sit-down."


You've been asked if there are pictures. And you've been asked if there is Jeff Gannon. So are there pictures of Jeff Gannon? That might sell some books.

I am answering this question only in hopes that this chat will pop up whenever somebody puts "Jeff Gannon pictures" into Google.   Actually I am not even answering the question. I am just writing "Jeff Gannon pictures." Also: "Porn. XXX. Porn."

There, that should help with the search engines.

Keep drinking the Purell......

Ah, another loyal reader.

Thank you. I will. You do the same, and I'll meet up with you again in a week or so to discuss more Jeff Gannon XXX porn.

Thanks for chatting everybody.


In This Chat
Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Sketch column about political theater in the capital. He joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000, after two years as a senior editor of The New Republic and eight years with the Wall Street Journal. He is also author of two political books, Homo Politicus (Doubleday, 2008) and Smashmouth (Basic Books, 2001). He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter. • Dana Milbank Bio & Archive
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